Merry Christmas everyone. I'm off on holidays so I probably won't be posting anything until the first few days of January (the actual day will depend on the magnitude of my inevitable hangover).
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
When most people get the boot from a job they find themselves down at the pub with some mates slagging off at their old boss and some of those pricks from the office that they never got along with. When you are the UN Secretary General you get to mouth off at whole countries who happen to have a massive nuclear arsenal at their disposal.
Posted by mick at 10:05 am
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Kevin Rudd has announced that he'll drop dopey the "visitor values pledge" policy of his predecessor Kim Beazley. When Beazley announced this policy a few months back it sounded like a piece of wedge politics done on the fly, which is essentially what Rudd said about it today,
"I think it probably wasn't properly considered at the time".
I'm beginning to see an upside to the ALP having a new leadership. Switching to the new team has given them a short-term "get out of jail free" card on some of the uglier ALP policies.
One area in which the ALP had wondered off into lala land was definitely in their immigration policy. Beazley's ideas on immigration seemed have been developed as a result of listening to 15 minutes worth of talkback radio in Sydney. A more considered approach this particularly sensitive issue would be more than welcome.
Posted by mick at 11:09 am
Kofi Annan took a final swipe at G.W. Bush's foreign policy today and the current direction of world politics. I liked this statement in particular,
"no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others.".
I think many world leaders should think long and hard about that quote.
Posted by mick at 10:50 am
Monday, December 11, 2006
Queensland national Party Senator Barnaby Joyce on John Howard's plan (actually, this plan has Andrew Robb's grubby fingerprints all over it) for introducing mandatory English and "values" testing of migrants to Australia:
"We're trying to stop people who have militant ideas who want to destroy our nation - I've got no problem with that whatsoever," Senator Joyce said.
"What has to be proven is whether an English test is going to do it - most wackos are very well-educated."
That's exactly the point. This divisive piece of legislation does nothing towards its stated goal, that is, to prevent extremists from migrating to Australia and promoting an "un-Australian" agenda. I wonder what the real goal of this legislation is...
Posted by mick at 4:36 pm
I'd like to remind all you quantumish PhD students and Postdocs out there that registration for IQING 5 closes on the 31st of December - that's less than three weeks away!
IQING 5 is open to all quantum information oriented PhD students and young Postdocs. Theorists and experimentalists are encouraged to apply. For more info go to the website.
Posted by mick at 12:33 pm
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
... is that Rolf Harris can still generate headlines.
Rolf Harris to me is a remnant of an Australia that has long since disappeared (though unfortunately a lot of the racism of that time has managed to hang around). There's got to be a whole generation of young folk scratching their heads over this story. My main lasting memory involving Rolf Harris is from when I was a young 'un and I saw a repeat episode of The Goodies where they did a spoof about his success in Britain. I mean, that was doubly second hand re-hashing of a relatively lame media phenomena. How long is the memory of the Australian media?
Posted by mick at 12:55 pm
According to the SMH Kevin Rudd is approximately 180 cm tall. That's not so little and makes my use of "little Kev" seem more than a little stupid, especially seeing as I'd be looking up to him. According to the SMH a lot of people make this mistake, mainly due to the whole schoolboy nerd look that he has going on.
Sorry Kevin, I will endeavor to call you "not quite so little, but not entirely huge Kev" from now on.
Posted by mick at 12:26 pm
The NYT has an interesting piece on the fate of the two giant Buddhas of Bamiyan Valley in Afganistan that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. I've occasionally wondered what happened to this site in the aftermath of the US-led invasion. It's nice to know that people are now debating how to restore the site. It makes me feel that the war in Afganistan might actually be winnable.
Posted by mick at 12:21 pm
Aussie Bob over at Surfdom has pointed out that the new ALP leader, Kevin Rudd, should be getting behind a push some liberals in the Liberal party (the few that are left) to ensure that David Hicks is either charged or brought home. Apparently there is a challenge on in the Federal Court claiming that Alexander Downer and Philip Ruddock have the power to bring him before Australian courts but have failed to do so, which apparently violates their ministerial responsibilities.
Posted by mick at 10:12 am
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I am so totally behind this if if leads to me getting a jetpack or a rocket car.
This reminds me of one of my favourite exchanges on the West Wing about technology development during the Cold War (and implicitly about NASA):
Leo: My generation never got the future it was promised... Thirty-five years later, cars, air travel is exactly the same. We don't even have the Concorde anymore. Technology stopped.
Josh: The personal computer...
Leo: A more efficient delivery system for gossip and pornography? Where's my jet pack, my colonies on the Moon?
Posted by mick at 10:26 am
Bloody hell. Another coup in Fiji. They seem to have evolved into a standard component of the Fijian political system. I don't know why the Fijian public tolerate having their wishes trampled over by the military or whatever special interest group is heading the latest coup. I guess that these coups keep happening because they are relatively bloodless and they don't really affect the citizens that much. Still, they have to work out a better way of resolving disputes.
I notice that for all of John Howard's regional tough talk he wasn't willing to commit troops save democracy in Fiji. Sure, he's willing to do it in Iraq but not in Fiji. I'm not saying that sending troops into Fiji would actually help the situation, the Fijian military are well trained and well equipped. I just thought I'd point out the blatant hypocrisy of Howard's foreign affairs agenda.
Update: This is pretty disgusting. From the SMH,
Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has declared himself head of state, sacked the Qarase Government and justified his actions with references to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam.
Apparently the Commodore skipped that bit in the constitution about who appoints the head of state and what warrants a dismissal.
Posted by mick at 9:46 am
Expect the Howardistas to go on full attack mode against the Rudd/Gillard team in the lead-up to Christmas. They will be doing everything they can to make sure that Rudd has no Lathamesque honeymoon with the voters.
Wedge politics will be the name of the game in the coming weeks, the new ALP team will have to be hot on their toes so they don't end up stuck in a corner as a result their leadership swticharoo. I noticed that Rudd's factional enemy, Bill Ludwig weighed in straight after his win trying to paint Rudd as "no friend of the working man". I doubt that Ludwig seriously believes this, he's just trying to force Rudd into maintaining Beazley's hard line on IR. Ludwig's no fool, expect The Oz and the small/big business councils and whoever else you care to name to try to force Rudd into retaining key elements of workchoices. My bet is that they try to paint the ousting of Kim as being the result of the failure of IR to "cut through" as an issue with the public. This is total crap of course. One of the few trends that can be reliably determined from polling data over the last year is that the government has been on the slide since introducing workchoices. The ALP and union campaigns have been effective and one would expect with further rises in interest rates forecast for the coming year that the new IR laws will increasingly worry the electorate. In addition to this, the regions where these laws are going to really hit home are in Howard's "heartland", that is, the outer suburban areas of the major cities. Expect Rudd not to take the bait. He was elected precisely because he has a better chance than Kim of taking back this middle ground vote especially in Queensland (where the ALP must win back the outer-urban regions to take back the lower house).
Oh, did I mention that you should expect to hear the Libs yell from the rooftops that this team is "inexperienced" at leading a country. They will decry comparisons between Rudd's rise and that of Howard's because "Howard had governing experience". Aside from the ridiculousness of this argument, by this reasoning no other party can ever win government off the Libs again (unless the ALP bring back Gareth Evans and Paul Keating for another tilt), Rudd was Wayne Goss's go-to guy in Queensland. He was tasked with reforming the civil service in post-Fitzgerald Queensland. One thing that has become blatantly clear over the last two years is that there has to be major reform within the federal government. DFAT has been found guilty of rubber stamping bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime, Vanstone's immigration department is a farce and there is warfare breaking out between the states and the government over who runs what. A Rudd/Gillard team would be perfect for addressing the desperate need for federal government reform.
There are many other problems that they will face of course. People will accuse Rudd of having no personality, trying to damn him with the same issue that toppled Crean. Gillard will be attacked for being a single woman who is out-of-touch with ordinary Australians. Total tosh of course but you will hear it frequently.
Rudd, Gillard and their ALP have a Herculean task ahead of them in the coming year. The ALP has performed, for the most part, pretty well in the last year or so. Now they have to ramp it up and bring it home.
Posted by mick at 8:51 am
Monday, December 04, 2006
Well, it is barely worth commenting on now (there were a million posts out there about this before I was out of bed this morning) but Kevin Rudd took over the Australian Labor Party leadership today toppling Kim Beazley from the leadership. Little Kevie knocked off big Kim in a party room vote Monday morning. Kevin will be sharing his leadership duties with the new deputy Julia Gillard.
The vote was called for on Friday and since then I've been around Ozploghistan complaining about how dumb this all was as Kim finally seemed to be on the right track. Well, the deed is done now and it might not necessarily be a bad thing.
If you are interested in seeing more commentary on this LP seems to be the place with the most reasonable discussion.
Update: BBC has picked up the story. This story appears to be becoming international news. A lot of the international stories focus on Kev's background in the diplomatic service and his ability to speak Mandarin. I don't really understand why journos keep throwing out that "wow, little Kevie can speak another language" line. It's really quite lame when you consider that outside Australia it is common for people to speak multiple languages.
Update: A half-decent background piece on Rudd.
Posted by mick at 2:30 pm
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
A new quantum blog has just popped up on the intertubes. Aggie, a quantum information theory student doing her PhD at UQ has decided to join this whole blogging caper. Regular Quantumbiodiscs readers will have seen Aggie occasionally popping up in comments around here. Go check out her blog I'm sure it'll turn out to be fab (does anyone say "fab" anymore?).
Posted by mick at 10:42 am
This video is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. The old drunken idiot is Glenn Milne, a senior political correpondent for News Limited in Australia. He's renowned for being an "insider". In reality, he basically publishes any old gossipy trash that he's fed by a pollie. The skinny guy is Stephen Mayne. He setup the daily internet newspaper Crikey and is also a politcal activist. He's been warring with Milne for a few years now, basically, he's called him a few times for being the hack that he is. Then, after a few too many drinks at the Walkley Awards, Australia's jounralism awards night which is incidently being televised live... well, you can watch the rest.
Posted by mick at 10:19 am
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I'm sitting in Salzburg HBf (Salzburg's main train station) at the moment on the way to Vienna. This city is seriously pretty. I'm going to have to come back here for a weekend or something.
- Damn, I just tried to post this while the train was in the satation but it didn't work. Stupid fake public access wireless networks.
Posted by mick at 2:38 pm
I don't know how many of you noticed but I'm trying to post more regularly after my slackness period over the summer (winter if you are in Oz). My posting dropped off a bit last week though due to my completely hectic schedule.
Among other things, we finally managed to get out our registration announcement for IQING 5. This involved getting a real website up and running, though this was made significantly easier than it could have been because iWeb is so damned easy to use.
One of the big "other things" that I did last week was to start applying for a postdocs. Some of you may have seen Dave (aka The Quantum Pontiff's) advertisement for the Santa Fe Institute's postdoc fellowships? I applied for one of those. The Santa Fe Institute is a cross disciplinary privately run institute that encourages people to work across multiple fields. Their working style appeals to me a lot, as do the areas of research in which they are specialized. In order to apply for that position I had to write a new personal research statement, something I hadn't done in over two years. Needless to say, it was difficult to write. Maybe I'll post in the future a bit about what was contained in it.
Well, that was last week. This week I'm visiting Frank Verstraete's group (which at the moment is pretty much Frank) in Vienna. I'm giving a talk there on Thursday that I should be writing now. This visit should be fun, I've only been to Vienna twice before. The first time was just to get a connecting flight (so it doesn't count really). The second time was for a frisbee tournament, which also doesn't really count because I didn't see anything other than frisbee fields and the inside of a restaurant for two days.
Oh, and the other cool thing is that I'm writing this all on the train on the way to Vienna. They have powerpoints in this train so you can plug in your laptop, I think that's very cool. I should get a lot of work done on this trip if I can only find a decent caffeine source on the train...
Posted by mick at 2:38 pm
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Registration is now open (as is our fancy new site)
The fifth Informal Quantum INformation Gathering (IQING 5) is taking place in Innsbruck on April 11 - 14 2007. IQING 5 will bring together young researchers working in the field of quantum information science so that they can discuss their research in an informal environment.
Junior postdocs, PhD students, and Diploma/MSc students working on theoretical or experimental quantum information science are invited to attend. All participants are strongly encouraged to submit an abstract for a presentation.
Registration is due by the 31st of December 2006 (midnight GMT, and we'll check!). Notification of acceptance will be given by the 31st of January 2007.
The organizers anticipate that there will be a limited accommodation subsidy available for those who need it.
Posted by mick at 10:13 am
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I totally missed my blog birthday. I've been doing this blog for a little over two years now, wow.
It all started with some lame post on the 4th of November 2004. The official line is that I started this blog because I wanted to write more about politics, physics and whatever else popped into my head. In reality, I probably did it because I was in the middle of writing my PhD thesis and wanted to do ANYTHING else.
To all my old readers, thanks for sticking around. I know some of you have been reading this blog pretty much since the first post.
To all the new readers, I hope you hang around and I don't bore you too much!
Posted by mick at 3:16 pm
Damn, I'm going to talk up a comment of Kim Beazley's again. Like I said in the last post, this is weird for me because I'm not normally a fan.
In the last week or so the Queensland and New South Wales state Labor governments have had all sorts of dirty laundry aired. We've had drug-fueled sex scandal suicide attempts, extortion, and even a bit of old-fashioned corruption. The leadership of the QLD and NSW Labor parties have been under fire for not being aware of the activities of their junior ministers.
Big Kim today decided to give some context to these scandals and the actions of the NSW and QLD Labor leadership:
"But not one of them ... has in any way shape or form seen or presided over the sorts of disgraceful behavings that has produced the AWB scandal ... that is the worse scandal in federal history."
He's right. He even said it in a way that is pretty much comprehendible. Does he have a new advisor or something?
Posted by mick at 2:39 pm
Kim Beazley made another good call today. In the wake of a 50/50 newspoll a few commentators in The Oz were saying that Labor should reshuffle their front bench before the campaigning for next year's election gets really serious (as if it wasn't already!). They even mooted a potential leadership challenge coming from Rudd and Gillard!
Kim, quite rightly, pointed out that oppositions don't benefit from front bench re-shuffles in the same way governments do. What he didn't say (thankfully) is that Labor has had the government on the run for most of the last year. Why on earth would they "shake things up" now? The punches are just now starting to connect, Beazley is looking stronger than he has in years and his front bench team seems to be well coordinated. There is no chance of a leadership spill before the election, especially from Rudd or Gillard as neither of them are that dumb.
Weird, I'm spruiking for Kim, normally I'm knocking him down.
Update: Bryan at Ozpolitics is a bit suss on The Australian's Labor re-shuffle campaign as well.
Update 2: Aussie Bob at Surfdom looks at the figures of the newspoll and hammers the interpretation given in The Oz. He puts to rest the idea that Beazley's personal polling is bad.
Posted by mick at 2:10 pm
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
If you ever wondered why no-one ever runs a competition for the best daily quote from Ozplogistan it isn't because it would be too hard to trawl through all those comments. It's because Nabs would win too often. His comment is about the most accurate summing up of a political position I've ever seen. It's probably also the least ideological.
Posted by mick at 5:49 pm
Friday, November 10, 2006
Because I've been doing too much stuff with physics.
By the way, we will be doing a second announcement for IQING 5 some time in the next week or so. We'll even have a fancy new website that I'll link to as soon as it goes up. I can tell you now that there will be a call for abstracts with the due date being the 31st of December and there will be a webform on the new site for the registration and abstract submission.
Oh, and I'm definitely going to QIP 2007.
Posted by mick at 4:25 pm
As I predicted the other day, the conservatives in Oz have been trying to make out like the Democrat victory in the US isn't really a big deal at all for John Howard and Co. Phil at LP has done a nice little round up of quotes from conservative columnists in recent days.
Posted by mick at 4:15 pm
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I don't think I need to tell anyone that I'm very happy about the outcome of the US congressional elections. The Dems took the house and have given a good fight in the senate (where we probably won't know the final outcome for quite a while yet).
The implications of this victory are big. You'll see conservatives all over the place, and especially in Australia, try to downplay the importance of this vote, but it's just damage control. John Howard will be very worried about the outcome of this election. The mood in the US has been for change and now the Dems will launch a two-year election campaign for the presidency. The problem for Howard will be that there is every possibility that this mood will spread to Australia and every policy hit that the conservatives take in the US will be a body blow for their Australian counterparts.
At the very least, Howard's Iraq policy is going to look stupid when Bush is forced to backflip. With IR, interest rates, and the environment all in play as issues Howard isn't going to like taking hits on national security.
Posted by mick at 3:44 pm
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
No, it isn't "what will be the final outcome of the American congressional elections?" (for which voting begins any time now), nor is it "will Australia descend into the 7th level of hell because a new form of embryonic stem cell cloning has been made legal?", but it is that time eternal question:
"What should my theorem prooving, paper editing, all purpose mathsish physicish caffeine-based fuel source be, this gigantic packet of m&m's sitting on my desk or the watery-as-hell-yet-still-somehow-tastes-like-mud coffee that comes out of the office coffee machine?"
I think that time will come to proove that the correct answer will be, "all of the above and maybe something more".
Posted by mick at 1:45 pm
Monday, November 06, 2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
OK, it's still snowing. I'm over it now because it looks less light and fluffy and more cold and wet.
This is what the world looked like through my window this morning (I obviously added the blurriness to better encapsulate the reality of my pre-caffeine state of mind) .
Anyway, here are the pics that I took on my way to work yesterday that I promised to post:
Posted by mick at 9:41 am
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The Australian Labor party's leader, Kim Beazley, has written an opinion piece in today's Australian highlighting the differences between the Labor and the Liberal positions on climate change policy. Reading it got me thinking that if John Howard had any doubt at all that he is in the middle of an election campaign then he surely doesn't now. Iraq, industrial relations, and the environment are all areas where Labor is looking good and taking the fight to the government. Kim is calling the shots at the moment in Australian politics, this is something that hasn't happened in a while.
Posted by mick at 3:11 pm
Scott Aaronson has a great post talking about some of the major discoveries in compuational complexity of the last 30 years and the implications of these discoveries for the rest of us.
It's easy to dismiss computational complexity as just "pure math" and to think that it has almost no relevance at all to the rest of science. But like pure math, major results in computational complexity can resonate throughout the scientific world (it just takes a while for those resonances to be observed!).
Scott's description of theoretical computer scientists sums it all up beautifully (and he manages to capture exactly what it is that I like about theoretical computer science):
So what are they then? Maybe it's helpful to think of them as "quantitative epistemology": discoveries about the capacities of finite beings like ourselves to learn mathematical truths. On this view, the theoretical computer scientist is basically a mathematical logician on a safari to the physical world: someone who tries to understand the universe by asking what sorts of mathematical questions can and can't be answered within it. Not whether the universe is a computer, but what kind of computer it is! Naturally, this approach to understanding the world tends to appeal most to people for whom math (and especially discrete math) is reasonably clear, whereas physics is extremely mysterious.
Posted by mick at 10:45 am
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Last night I finished watching the final season of "Six Feet Under". Wow. Does anyone know any other TV series that remotely compares to "Six Feet Under" for quality and quirkiness?
Update: I forgot to mention that Clair has a Sarah Blasko song playing on her stereo in the background in one of the final scenes of the final show of "Six Feet Under". How cool is that?
Posted by mick at 8:49 am
Monday, October 30, 2006
Friday, October 27, 2006
More physics posting! Weird eh?
Michael Nielsen, one of the organizers, has requested that post this info with regard to QIP 2007 conference:
The tenth QIP (Quantum Information Processing) Workshop is to be held in Brisbane, Australia, from January 30 through February 3, 2007.
QIP covers theoretical aspects of quantum information science, including quantum computing, quantum cryptography, and quantum information theory.
- The deadline for abstract submission for contributed talks (long and short) and for posters is 4 November, 2006.
- The deadline for early bird registration is 24 November, 2006.
- Some partial support available for students and postdocs will be available (see the website).
Full details are available at the workshop website:
Links to past QIP workshops (including programs) are available at the website. Note that this year's program will follow a similar format to QIP 2006, with approximately 10 invited talks, and 30 contributed talks.
Hope to see you in Brisbane in 2007!
I really hope that I can make it to this conference because I'm sure it's going to be a lot of fun and there'll be a lot of great physics and computer science being discussed. Did I mention that Brisbane was my home town so I'm more than qualified to say that it is a great city to visit.
I suggest that you go a few days early or stay on for a few days after the conference and take the opportunity to visit some of the fantastic beaches and islands in the vicinity of Brisbane!
Posted by mick at 2:39 pm
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Danger! Danger! Physics post ahead!
On the arXiv last week there was a paper written by a well known physicist, Dyakonov, criticizing the idea of fault tolerant quantum computing. Now, the theory of fault tolerance is one of the biggest results in the field of quantum computing. Basically, it is this theory that tells us that a quantum computer might be able to be built even though quantum systems are very hard to control. Recently there has been a fair bit of discussion about this paper over at The Quantum Pontiff's place [see Laugh therapy and A PR battle worth fighting?].
The main idea of fault tolerance goes something like this - if we want to make an ideal quantum circuit of a certain size then it is possible to simulate this circuit using components that are imperfect by constructing a circuit that is a bit more complex than the original, ideal, circuit. Now, the key thing is that there is a tradeoff between how complex this simulation circuit is and how bad its constituent components are. The threshold theorem tells us that if the imperfect components aren't too bad, then it is possible to use them to simulate your desired circuit in such a way that doesn't get so complicated that the whole exercise is a waste of time.
The big question in fault tolerance is how bad can these devices be before quantum computing becomes a waste of time? Which is related to the really big question: whether there are any quantum systems that can be manufactured that satisfy the detail of threshold theorem? At the moment, it seems that there are no physical restrictions that say that we cannot build a fault tolerant quantum computer. However, the technology required to build a fault tolerant quantum computer still seems to be quite a way off.
Now, everything I've said so far seems pretty easy. There is a lot of devil in the detail of all this. The math required to prove that we can build these simulation circuits - or more correctly error correcting circuits - is pretty intense. What's more, I've simplified the language that is normally used to explain the theory of fault tolerance. The literature that one must go through in order to get a thorough understanding of the topic is also very intimidating.
What's more, the theory of fault tolerance seems pretty counter-intuitive to physicists who have spent a lot of time playing with physics. Mostly, quantum systems don't behave nicely. Well, that isn't true, they behave nicely but not in a way that looks immediately nice for quantum computing. You see, quantum computations are made up out of a series of unitary operations. In principle all ideal quantum mechanical systems evolve via unitary operations. In practice, no quantum systems are ideal. The theory of error correction and fault tolerance was derived to show that there should exist quantum systems that have properties that allow us to create ideal operations on a subsystem while generating a whole lot of junk on the rest of the system.
There is a lot of physics underlying why it should be possible to make systems that can perform error correction. The problem is that a lot of it is buried under mountains of math. As a field we need to confront this problem, like Dave mentions here. Most of the language of quantum computing is, with good reason, phrased in the language of computer science. Maybe we need to reach out more to the rest of the physics community by better discussing how quantum computing works and also the implications of things like the fault tolerance theorem for our understanding of physics?
Posted by mick at 5:20 pm
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
So, like the sucka that I am, I downloaded IE7 for my laptop. IE7's default is to use Microsoft's fancy new "cleartype" technology for LCD screens. Cleartype is meant to smooth over all of your fonts and this is meant to look a lot better on LCD screens. On my screen it just looked kinda blurry. Basically, there was no setting that made it look good. What's more, if I could get IE7 to look OK I couldn't get fonts in other programs to look nice, especially in my TeX editor and in Thunderbird.
Did anyone else have this problem or have my eyes just been fried from way too much time in front of my laptop?
Posted by mick at 4:27 pm
Saturday, October 21, 2006
This story is one of them. The major off ramp from the freeway into the CBD of Brisbane was shut this week because a stress fracture was found. This caused traffic chaos as one of the major roads in the city was shut down without prior planning.
What do the police union do about this? They take the opportunity to have a Friday lunchtime game of street cricket on one of the affected streets.
I think that's totally awesome.
Posted by mick at 2:43 pm
Friday, October 06, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
My old ulti team, the UQ Lovers, came second at this year's Australian Uni championships. By all accounts, they not only played well but they played with a lot of spirit and very high blood alcohol levels - thus keeping that Lovers feeling that started back in '04. Well done guys, I wish I could have been there!
Posted by mick at 12:25 pm
The answer is Innsbruck. Next week Dave Bacon (the Quantum Pontiff) and Scott Aaronson (Shtetl-Optimized) are coming to visit our institute here in Innsbruck. It will be a lot of fun to see Dave and Scott again. Hopefully I can get the two of them into a half decent stoush!
Oh yea, it snowed in the hills today. This should make Dave happy, if it keeps snowing he might have half a chance of going skiing next week...
Posted by mick at 9:58 am
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Tim over at Road to Surfdom took a little swipe at Kevin Rudd yesterday for his attempts at selling the ALP as a party that has it's values firmly rooted in Christian philosophy. Tim seems to be mostly concerned with what he perceives to be attempts by politicians from both sides of the aisle to Americanize Australian politics.
Well, I took a little swipe back because I'm not so sure that this is what is happening. While not wanting to strawmanize Tim, I think that he thinks that (God I love that phrase) Rudd's attempts to sell the ALP as a natural choice for Christians will just lead to a war of escalation for the Christian vote between the ALP and the Coalition. I think that there is a real risk of this, but I'm not convinced that it is the only way that this can play out.
I think that over the last 10 years we've seen the right in Australia frequently play the Christian moral card in order to get votes. I think, arguably, that the most blatant proponent of this, at the Federal level, is Tony Abbott. Since the last election we have seen Abbott, and a number of his allies, try to enforce his dogmatic view of Christianity upon the electorate. Most notably through the whole RU486 debate of last year. I fear that if the ALP does nothing about this, and tries to "keep secular" then they will find that the Coalition will not only have moved to the Christian right, but they will have dragged a significant portion of the electorate over to their position.
Kevin Rudd seems to be, quite rightly (sorry, bad pun), pointing out that there are many aspects of Christian philosophy that Tony Abbott, and more generally the Liberal Party, are not a champions for. Christianity is not about the abortion debate. Christianity is about euthanasia. Christianity is not about the War on Drugs, nor the War on Terror. Christianity is a complex religion, with many competing views. Many of these views are held in common with both the Liberal and Labor parties. No single political party can claim absolutely that they represent the "Christian" view, though it is my own personal opinion that the ALP better represents Christian views on social justice than the current Coalition government. This seems to be also where Kevin Rudd is coming from.
I guess the whole point of this post is to say that politics and religion have always been intertwined. Politics is about decision making and that cannot be done in a vacuum. Neither the left nor the right can claim any religion as their own, and any attempt to do so should be blocked by vigorous argument.
Posted by mick at 9:37 am
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Quantiki, one of two quantum wikis (the other being Caltech's Qwiki) is running a contest to encourage people to contribute. Apparently there's a 100 pound prize for the best article contributed before the 1st of November. That's about 800000 euro and about 3000000000000 Austrlalian or Canadian dollars!
Posted by mick at 3:24 pm
Friday, September 01, 2006
Who knows what those wacky funsters are gonna come up with next? My money is on some sort of 80s college flic inspired bra bomb the next time George W is giving a press conference in the Whitehose rose garden.
Posted by mick at 12:04 pm
Thursday, August 31, 2006
After a two year wait George W finally got around to deciding which one of his old drinking buddies would become the US's new ambassador to Australia. The new ambassador, Robert McCallum, has kindly allowed Australians to disagree with American policy,
I want to get out across the entire continent of Australia to say that it's OK to disagree with this US policy or that US policy but still be pro-American because we have so much in common.
They didn't report it in the newspapers, but I'm pretty sure that when a journalist asked him about his foreign policy experience he replied by chugging a beer.
Posted by mick at 4:51 pm
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
It seems that the Cole inquiry is back in full swing. The latest evidence demonstrates that the Howard government knew in great detail about the involvement of the AWB in the Oil-for-Food scandal before it broke in late 2004.
I would like to say that this means that heads will role in Canberra as the Government has always maintained that they knew nothing untill the Oil-for-Food scandal broke. It seems now that they knew, and were planning how to deal with the political fallout months before the findings of the UN inquiry were released. In particular it seems that Alexander Downer had to have known about the AWBs involvement in the scandal.
It will be interesting to see if the Cole inquiry re-calls Downer or any other senior ministers to give more evidence before the inquiry.
Posted by mick at 5:54 pm
Apparently Futurama is going to make a comeback next year. There's a bit of debate about whether this will be in the form of a series of movies or a continuation of the TV series but either way it's some pretty interesting news.
I'm a big Futurama fan and I'm really looking forward to seeing how they continue the storyline, especially seeing as they brought the series to an ending somewhat after it was canceled on Fox. I guess if they are releasing a series of movies then there will be an irresistible temptation to make a lot of Star Trek revamp jokes...
Posted by mick at 11:39 am
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Kevin Rudd gave his couterpart Alexander Downer a rough time in the Australian Federal Parliament yesterday.
Apparently in the Cole inquiry has released an email from 2002 demonstrating that Australian dimplomats were helping the AWB (Australian Wheat Board) to get contacts within Saddam's inner circle so that they could land bigger contracts...
Posted by mick at 4:34 pm
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I'm thinking about moving Quantumbiodiscs to a free wordpress site. I've set up a little test page here.
What do people think? It seems that Wordpress has some pretty cool features, but ultimately it seems that all the features are essentially the same. The only thing that I think Wordpress does better is sidebar widgets.
Oh yea, I'd also lose my google rank if I switched.
Any comments are welcome.
Posted by mick at 2:58 pm
Monday, August 07, 2006
A huge sorry out there to all my regular readers for not posting for three months. I don't have many excuses other than real life has caught up with me in many ways and I just haven't had the time or energy for regular blogging. My only real web-presence of late has been as an occasional commenter at LP or Road to Surfdom.
Posted by mick at 4:18 pm
Apparently me and the Pontiff are going to have to fight it out to see who really is Spider-Man.
My Superhero quiz results:
You are Spider-Man
|You are intelligent, witty, |
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz
Posted by mick at 3:52 pm
Friday, April 28, 2006
There's a new quantum blog in town, Quantum Quandries. The site is run by Matt Leifer, who works at the Perimiter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Quantum Quandries is going to pick apart the foundations of quantum theory and is aimed at physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers and anyone else who is so inclined. As a quantum geek I think that it's well worth a read.
Posted by mick at 1:00 pm
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
(Cross posted at AJ's site.)
One of the biggest problems of having no car, is the walk home the morning after. Having been to a cocktail party last night, I did the 25 minute trek back from the ferry this morning, adorned in some $1300 worth of suit, shoes, belt and watch. This being Australia in Autumn, it was of course some 20 something degrees, and I sweated as I trecked in my inappropriate attire. However it was a lovely walk, as it is a beautiful, clear day in Brisbane, and for the reasons I am about to explain, it gave me some things to thing about.
Today is ANZAC day in Australia. It the day that we commerate the sacrifice of all those servicemen and women who have fallen in the name of this country, and recognize the contribution of all those who came home. The day honours the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the beaches of Gallipoli during World War 1. As you would (hopefully) know, the invasion was not successful, and over 8,000 Australians alone died in the attempt. During World War 1, Australia suffered the largest per capita military casualty rate (with 10% of our population overseas fighting on foreign shores), and New Zealand suffered the greates per capita casualty rate.
Thus as I walked home, looking very swish and every bit the modern Australian male, who is both Metro and a SNAG, I had an identy crisis. I walked past dozens of young families with children waving the Australia flag, I walked past a number of aging servicemen with medals proudly displayed. Today is a day where we celebrate and recognize. However I realized on my way home that I wasn't sure what we were celebrating, nor what we are recognizing.
Is it War? Sometimes I worry that ANZAC day has (or maybe always was) about having a pride in militancy. Having a pride in Australia's ability to go to war and commit violence against other people. I am not an idealist. Wars happen, and sometimes they are necessary. However I shudder when I see people proud or even excited about the concept of warfare and enthusiastic about a nations capacity to ruin and destroy. There are Just Wars, but as first highlighted by St. Augustine, that "just" quality is one based upon intentions and how people think. So, a celebration of militancy would be bad.
Sometimes I worry that ANZAC day is nationalism of a particular type. A type that can be manipulated by certain people or groups to their own ends. I worry that there is a concept of "us and them" on ANZAC day, a concept that we died fighting people who weren't like us, and by God that's because we like our country the way it is. It is a concept that is trumpted out in times of xenophobia - "our fathers died to keep this country Australian" - meaning that they died to keep Australia of a particular type. One with certain characterstics that are simply inappropriate and outdated in our current society.
Similarly, I worry that ANZAC day harkens back to a time when the average Australian was different. It is this worry that sparked my identity crisis on the way home. I consider myself a good Australian. I work hard, I try to be a good person and mate, and I love this country. But I realized that I probably have very little in common with those that died on Turkish shores 90 years ago. I am progressive, I love multicultural Australia, I wear expensive clothes and probably will never serve in a war. How much is ANZAC day my day? How much right do I have to celebrate? Would the ANZAC's really want me to give them respect? I feel like I want to celebrate, but is the Australia they died for the Australia I believe in and want to see created?
Ultimately, the answer is yes. I think the reasons for this answer lie in a deeper inspection of what ANZAC day recognizes. The Australian troops that served at Gallipoli, and the vast majority who have served since, would be the first to tell you that war is horrible. The diggers at Gallipoli endured hellish conditions during their 8-month farce on those beaches. Australian troops have been in the crappest areas of the world fighting wars ever since, under the shittiest conditions. War isn't glorious, and only fools on ANZAC day believe Australian troops have ever thought differently.
So ANZAC day isn't about war being glorious, is it about nationalism then? Hmmm, tougher to answer. I think there should be a distinction between nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism is bad - it promotes the concept of the nation-state and that states sovereignty above other concerns, and creates boundaries between people. Patriotism is about recognizing those attributes present in a culture that are worthy of praise. Patriotism doesn't require an "us and them" concept - think of it like your birthday. On your birthday, you don't hate other people, nor do you think yourself better than your friends. Indeed you can love your friends more on your birthday as they come together to celebrate your admirable qualities. The same is for a celebration of patriotism - patriotism doesn't require a distrust or subjegation of other people, or the creation of boundaries between them, it is simply an expression of pride (and even hope) in what you think is great about your home.
Therefore, given all of this analysis, what do I think ANZAC day is about? ANZAC day is a day we remember those who did what they thought was right, because it was the right thing to do. It isn't about war being good, nor is it about Australia belonging to certain people and not others. It's a recognition of spirit. Ultimately, Gallipoli was a shitty campaign in a stupid and largely pointless war. I'm sure many of the diggers realized this. I'm sure more recognize it now. However, the whole point is that they did what they thought they should do, because their mates were going to do it, and you'll be buggered if you let your mates stand alone. That spirit was forged on the beaches of Gallipoli, and has now grown into a cultural concept. It's a concept of loyalty and mateship. Courage is in there too, but it's a courage that comes from doing what is expected of you, a courage that comes from believing in your mates and not wanting to do wrong by them. It's a courage that comes from seeing what has to be done, and doing it because that's your job and that's just the way it works. There is no glorly in the ANZAC spirit, because to glorify it would ruin that spirit. What the ANZACs did then and have since done was not for recognition, it was because such actions were considered regular, the assumed behaviour, they were what should come naturally. You stand up for your mates when you should, and you don't stand down.
Thus, I think ANZAC day celebrates a spirit, one that was created at Gallipoli and is timeless. Do I feel entitled to celebrate this spirit, given I have nothing in common with its founders? Sure. The point is that under similar conditions, it is hoped that I would act the same way. Although the country has changed and will continue to rightly do so, the spirit is something that can be forever embraced by everyone within our borders, and indeed beyond them.
You don't leave your mates. You do what is right, even if it isn't easy. At the end of the day when all else goes to shit, bugger 'em, and keep your chin up.
This is what ANZAC day means to me. Celebrating a particular spirit that Australian's believe in. I hope people found this little blog food for thought, and I would really like some discussion if anyone has comments. Particularly if you disagree - this whole concept is about 4 hours old so I'd love to reshape it if someone has a good point to make!! But basically, I like ANZAC day, because it celebrates a type of bravery and righteousness that appeals to me - an everyday version. A version that everyone has, and appears in the right conditions. A version that goes without praise, as people just do what they think they should. So I'd love to hear back!
Much love and respect, especially to those who created the spirit 91 years ago today.
Elsewhere: There's a lot of good writing on ANZAC day in the Oz blogosphere at the moment. Check out this post at LP for a bunch of links.
Posted by mick at 9:33 am
Monday, April 10, 2006
It's been a bad week for the right (as pointed out by Mark at LP) and it might get worse:
- Republican majority leader Tom DeLay quits politics after being embroiled in a corruption scandal.
- "Scooter" Libby rats out George Dubya and his boss Dick Cheney.
- Details George Dubya's for a crazy Iranian adventure get leaked to the world press and threaten to destabilise any progress that the UN might make in attempting to end Iran's nuclear weapon ambitions.
- Australian deputy PM Mark Vaile admits under oath to being too much of a newbie for his staff to tell him that the AWB was giving money to Iraq's government in the lead up to the 2003 invasion. Not to mention he fesses up to having a spectacularly bad memory and not much of a head for detail.
- (Ex?) Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi looks for all money like he will be relegated to the opposition benches (and maybe jail?).
- Australian Foreign minister Alex "Dolly" Downer to be in the dock at the Cole Inquiry tomorrow. He's going to have to explain how he avoided knowing about the AWB kickbacks, in contravention of Australian and International law, and then go on to explain why he thought it was appropriate to shield the AWB from the Volcker Inquiry.
- On Thursday Lord Voldeshort himself, Australian PM John Howard, might have to front up to the Cole Inquiry.
Posted by mick at 4:54 pm
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
I notice that Bomber Beazley couldn't resist trying to turn skills shortages into another wedge issue today. The Bomber seriously seems to be trying to insinuate that the Howard government is encouraging employers to employ skilled migrant workers over skilled Australian workers.
Sure, there is a skills shortage in Oz and it's great that the ALP wants to end this by training people. But can the Beazer do this without tying immigration issues into the policy?
Imagine if you were a fly on the wall when they came up with this crap:
Labor Right Hack 1: The Bomber has to go on the attack about skills.
LRH 2: Yea, polling shows that we are losing Blue-collar votes to Howard. Maybe we can get some back by pointing out Howard's under-funding of skills training schemes ?
LRH 1: I've got a great idea! Let's point out that skilled migration has increased under the Howard government then we can implement a policy to force employers to train Aussie kids if they want to employ migrants.
LRH 2: That way, we can finally once-and-for-all show to the blue-collar voters that we are tougher than Howard on immigration! WE'LL HAVE THE ELECTION SEWN UP!
LRH 1: I don't know why we haven't thought of this before? I mean, it's so easy. We just get voters to blame their problems on immigrants! What's more, those immigrants can't vote. Mate, it's a win-win situation. We can call it the "Aussies first" policy. You know, cause it puts Aussies first. If Howard tries to bag it we can say he isn't putting "Aussies first". It's freakin genious, that's what it is.
LRH 2: You don't think those sops from the left faction will have a problem with it do ya? Some of those bastards managed to win pre-selection again.
LRH 1: We'll just throw 'em a bone. Just say something about wage fairness for migrant workers, some crap like that'll keep their pinko traps shut.
LRH 2: What about employers? Won't they be pissed cause we might force them to spend money on training when they don't have to?
LRH 1: C'mon mate. Those big end of town pricks 'll never vote for us anyway. Especially after the Bomber has promised to shred the Work Choices legislation. Do you think we could get some shots of Beazley in a tank or something to announce the policy. You know, to remind voters that he used to be defence minister?
LRH 2: Wanna beer?
Posted by mick at 1:32 pm
Well known Ozblogistan blogger and academic, Mark Bahnisch, is putting together a paper on the sociology of blogging and is requesting input on interesting research avenues to pursue and for Kiwis and Aussies to give input on the reasons that they blog. Follow the links and read the articles if you would like to help out.
Mark, being a sociologist, is interested in such things. Personally I'd like to see a paper or two on the physics of blogging, so if anyone has any ideas for research on the physics of blogging they can leave comments here.
Posted by mick at 10:22 am
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
If you are a Queenslander you probably know that the Queensland Reds and the Brisbane Lions have had a rough few seasons. Today the Queensland Bulls put a smile on this Queenslander's face by absolutely crushing the Victorians in the domestic cricket final in Oz (that is the *shudder* Pura Cup final).
In the first innings the Queenslanders scored 6 for 900, breaking a bunch of records in the process.
Nice work guys!
Posted by mick at 12:31 pm
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
For anyone who is hiding under a rock - a bloody big cyclone hit my home state of Queensland yesterday. Apparently this was one of the biggest cyclones to hit Australia in 20, 30, 50, or 100 years, depending on your source.
Strangely I got the news on the morning radio here in Austria. I heard it first in German, and I understood enough to know that it was big and that it hit in Queensland. Not surprisingly, I panicked for about half an hour imagining all sorts of nightmare scenarios with cyclones hitting Brisbane or Cairns or wherever. After my half-hour freakout I listened to the English language bulletin which said that it hit in Innisfail - a town I never really imagined I would ever hear about on the radio in Austria (It was rare enough to hear it mentioned in Brisbane let alone in Europe) - and there was no mention of my hyper-actively imagined massive casualty list which fortunately turned out to be because very few people were injured and so far there has been no reported deaths. Sadly though, it seems there has been a huge amount of property and crop damage in the area which will have a massive economic impact on the region.
Oh and it took less than a day for people to start making the funnies comparing this to the tragedy in New Orleans. I guess that is actually a good thing.
Posted by mick at 3:25 pm
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I haven't been posting much lately. Life has been interfering with blogging quite a bit.
I guess the best gossip that I can mention is that my girlfriend has moved here from Duesseldorf. Not surprisingly this has taken up a lot of my spare time. Not only have I been spending time actually having a real life (which has been great), but the move has involved a huge amount of furniture shuffling and general decorative mucking around (geez I'm bad with a screwdriver, who would have guessed it?).
Anyway, to satisfy those of you who still bother to check whether I still post at all, here is a photo of the view from my bed when woke up yesterday morning:
Posted by mick at 12:47 pm
Friday, March 03, 2006
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
"It's not a Sergeant Schultz situation," he said.
"How can it be a Sergeant Schultz situation if we have an eminent lawyer who is conducting a thorough investigation and is receiving full cooperation from the government?"
I wonder if someone had to brief him on who "Sgt Schultz" was?
Posted by mick at 12:25 pm
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
So, Australia Day came and went. Unfortunately, I couldn't do squat in the way of drunken celebration as I have been busy as hell with the flu, house moving, and work taking up all of my time. I was hoping for a drunken middle-of-the-night hottest 100 party wearing boardies and a wife-beater. There's always next year I guess...
Fortunately TripleJ has the entire Hottest 100 available online as a Media Player or a Real Player stream, so I got to listen to it over the weekend. There was a lot of great music, a lot of which I hadn't heard before due to being OS. It was also
depressing great to here lots of people chatting to the presenters while having BBQ's, playing cricket, and doing all the usual summery type stuff that is so much fun on Hottest 100/Australia/Invasion Day.
While Bernard Fanning took out the top spot in the poll, the big winners of the hottest 100 seem to have been Wolfmother. Apparently they broke Powderfinger's record for having the most number of songs in the hottest 100 for a given year. This is a bit weird for me, I haven't really heard much of them at all because they are an Oz band that really took off in the second half of 2005. One of my friends gave me their album, which I still haven't really listened to but now I guess I should. Normally I'm pretty on the ball with Oz music, but i was off this year... I guess though my predictions weren't so far off the Gorillaz, the White Stripes, and Sarah Blasko did pretty well.
Anyway, here's the full list of songs which you can also download here:
1 Wish You Well - Bernard Fanning 2 Catch My Disease - Ben Lee 3 Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz 4 Best Of You - Foo Fighters 5 Dare - Gorillaz 6 Mind's Eye - Wolfmother 7 My Doorbell - The White Stripes 8 O Yeah - End Of Fashion 9 Joker & The Thief - Wolfmother 10 Do You Want To - Franz Ferdinand 11 Fig Jam - Butterfingers 12 Computer Camp Love - Datarock 13 Gold Digger - Kanye West 14 Songbird - Bernard Fanning 15 Flame Trees - Sarah Blasko 16 Apple Tree - Wolfmother 17 Blue Orchid - The White Stripes 18 I Was Only 19 - The Herd 19 Middle Of The Hill - Josh Pyke 20 DOA - Foo Fighters 21 Hurricane - Faker 22 Do-Do's And Whoa-Oh's - Kisschasy 23 Two More Years - Bloc Party 24 Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo - The Bloodhound Gang 25 The Car Song - The Cat Empire 26 Fix You - Coldplay 27 B.Y.O.B. - System Of A Down 28 Everyday I Love You Less & Less - The Kaiser Chiefs 29 Fast Girl - Gyroscope 30 Concrete Boots - After The Fall 31 The Special Two - Missy Higgins 32 MyEnemy - Cog 33 Phoenix - The Butterfly Effect34 I Predict A Riot - The Kaiser Chiefs 35 Girl - Beck 36 Speed Of Sound - Coldplay 37 Dimension - Wolfmother 38 Sly - The Cat Empire 39 Colossal - Wolfmother 40 Helicopter - Bloc Party 41 Dirty Harry - Gorillaz 42 Sweet As Sugar - Grinspoon 43 Autumn Flow - Lior 44 Sunny Road - Emiliana Torrini 45 Positive Tension - Bloc Party 46 Juicebox - The Strokes 47 Stuff & Nonsense - Missy Higgins 48 An Honest Mistake - The Bravery 49 What's On Your Radio - The Living End 50 I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor - The Arctic Monkeys 51 Be Yourself - Audioslave 52 America, F**K Yeah! - Team America 53 We're All In This Together - Ben Lee 54 Two Shoes - The Cat Empire 55 Landed - Ben Folds 56 It's 5! - Architecture In Helsinki57 Radio/Video - System Of A Down 58 Little Sister - Queens Of The Stone Age 59 Bloody Mother F***ing Asshole - Martha Wainwright 60 All The Money Or The Simple Life Honey - The Dandy Warhols 61 Jesus Of Suburbia - Green Day 62 Beware Wolf - Gyroscope 63 Divorcee At 23 - Clare Bowditch & The Feeding Set 64 Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - Jack Johnson 65 Always Worth It - Sarah Blasko 66 Gabrielle - Ween 67 The Denial Twist - The White Stripes 68 Ashes - The Beautiful Girls 69 Jesus I Was Evil - Butterfingers 70 This Year - The Mountain Goats 71 Run - Cog 72 I'm So Post Modern - The Bedroom Philosopher 73 Better Together - Jack Johnson 74 The Sound Of White - Missy Higgins 75 Que Onda Guero - Beck 76 Hypnotize - System Of A Down 77 First Day Of My Life - Bright Eyes 78 The Fighter - After The Fall 79 F*** Forever - Babyshambles 80 Believe - The Chemical Brothers 81 Let's Take The Long Way Home - The Beautiful Girls 82 Smoke It - The Dandy Warhols 83 Filthy Gorgeous - Scissor Sisters 84 White Unicorn - Wolfmother 85 Tightrope Walker - Epicure 86 Into The Dark - Ben Lee 87 We Can't Hear You - The Herd 88 Like Eating Glass - Bloc Party 89 Bastard - Ben Folds 90 Walk Away - Franz Ferdinand 91 Heartstopper - Emiliana Torrini 92 Messages - Xavier Rudd93 The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand 94 On This Side -Clare Bowditch & The Feeding Set 95 Face Without A Name - Kisschasy 96 Six Months In A Leaky Boat - Little Birdy 97 Themata - Karnivool 98 Why Do You Love Me - Garbage 99 Evie (Pt.1) - The Wrights 100 Party Started - The Cat Empire
Posted by mick at 1:17 pm
Monday, January 30, 2006
The Deutsche Bahn (the German railway) is now on my shit list!
Meet the CNL 319. CNL 319 is an overnight train that is (or used to be) handy for traveling from Duesseldorf (and a few other cities in the area) to Munich. It's a handy train because it is all kitted out for sleeping the night, it even stops for an hour or so after picking up all of it's night passengers so that people can get to sleep and so and it arrives in Munich at the extremely civil time of 7:20 in the morn. The CNL 319 also connects with the EC 81 that departs Munich at 7:30, which gives about enough time to grab some food and an OJ from one of the stalls at Munich HBF as you walk between the platforms. The EC 81 travels through Innsbruck, arriving at 9:20 in the morn.
The CNL 319/EC 81 combo is a pretty useful for me. My girlfriend is living in Duesseldorf at the moment. So, if I want to spend a weekend with her I often catch these trains to get back home. With these trains I can get a half-decent night's sleep, and make it into the office by 10 AM, just in time to check my email before our weekly group meeting.
Cutting to the chase: THE F^%#ING CNL 319 WAS 3 HOURS LATE LAST NIGHT!
I was at the train platform with 10 minutes to spare (pretty good for me. It had a lot to do with the fact that Sarah was there with me, but that's another story) and a notice went over the PA (in German) saying that the train had been delayed by 30 minutes. I was a little pissed, but not too much, I knew that 30 minutes wouldn't really delay the train by that much (cause I knew that the train actually stops for a good chunk of the trip to let everyone sleep). Over the next 3 hours they updated that sign every 15 minutes or so, adding another 15 minutes to the expected arrival time!
If they had told us outright that the train would be 3 hours late, I would have demanded my money back, gone back to Sarah's, and caught a train early in the morning. I would have been pissed being late to work in the morning but at least I could get a decent night's sleep. Instead, the bastard's dragged it out over 3 hours. Everyone that was waiting would walk up to the platform every 15 minutes, hopeful that this time they might actually get into a nice warm train and finally to sleep, only to hear another announcement that the train still wasn't coming...
Anyway, needless to say, I got about 4 hours sleep and missed my connection in the morning by a good 2 hours. Pricks.
Posted by mick at 2:52 pm
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Has anyone else noticed that the SMH is becoming more and more of a trashy rag? Today's lead is on Shapelle Corby losing her last appeal and subsequently having her sentance extended to 20 years. Sure, that sucks, but c'mon, there are so many big stories around that are so much more important. Australian Wheat Board? Cabinet re-shuffle? Osama's "truce" offer?
Posted by mick at 5:48 pm
I've just voted in the Triple J hottest 100. Voting closes in about 15 hours or so, I guess I just snuck in there. Here is what I voted for:
Always Worth It - Sarah Blasko
Counting Sheep - Sarah Blasko
My Boyfriend's Back - Spazzys
Blue Orchid - White Stripes
Forever For Her (Is Over For Me) - White Stripes
Passive Manipulation - White Stripes
Dare - Gorillaz
Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz
O Green World - Gorillaz
Gangsters & Thugs - Transplants
It was pretty hard to work out what to vote for this year. I spent a lot of time looking at the list of songs to vote for on the JJJ website and thinking, "Shit, I haven't heard most of these songs". I guess it's just another sign that I've been away from home for quite a long time. I remember that I listened to last year's Hottest 100 while sitting in my office in Brisbane and bashing away at my thesis (see also here and here). I wonder where, or even if, I'll listen to it this year? It will kinda be played in the middle of the night here in Austria, on a school-night no less, so I'm not sure I'll get to listen to it live. Then again, maybe me and some of the other Innsbruck-based Aussies will burn the midnight oil to listen in.
Anyway, why did I vote for what I voted for. Well, even though I was struggling to recognize most of the music that has been played on the J's this year, there were definitely a few standouts.
Both here in Austria, and when I was back home in Oz, I've heard a lot of people rave about the White Stripes album "Get behind Me Satan" and the Gorillaz "Demon Days". I predict that these albums will get a hellishly large number of votes in this year's hottest 100. Both of these albums have been huge internationally. I might be biased, because I'm a fan of both bands (especially the White Stripes) but I think that these two albums were really ahead of the game this year and we'll keep hearing songs from these albums in the years to come. I voted for three songs from each album. It was hard limiting it to just three from each, I think if I did the same tomorrow I'd probably make a different selection. I was really splitting hairs in my choice.
As for my other votes... I gave Sarah Blasko two votes, I absolutely loved her debut release "The Overture and the Underscore". I gave the Spazzys one vote for "My boyfriend's back", one day I'm going to post a review of their debut album, I've got a draft of it sitting on my computer but I never quite get around to finishing it. Finally, I gave a vote to the Transplants, not so much because I think that song is so great, but because I think that they are a band that is totally under-rated in Oz. I guess that's because of all the gangsta crap that they sing about, but musically, goddamn, they are really good.
Posted by mick at 3:26 pm
Dammit, I've been memed by the qpope. Well, 7 is the number on the back of my Lovers jersey, and there are a few funny stories about that...
1. Seven things to do before I die
Hmm like Dave I'm gonna keep this one for public eyes only: 1) Live by the beach. 2) Get into politics. 3) Publish something in Science or Nature, preferably in both journals, many times. 4) Learn to play the guitar 5) Learn to speak another language. 6) Have my own family. 7) Think before speaking.
2. Seven things I cannot do
1) Speak German dammit! 2) Be organized. 3) Drive a manual car. 4) Be completely happy with my fitness level. 5) Not get drawn into a long, possibly boring, political discussions that cite examples and conjectures based on huge tracts of human history. 6) Willingly get out of bed in the morning on cold days. 7) Deal with a lack of good coffee...
3. Seven things that attract me to [Innsbruck]
1) A girl I met in Brisbane. 2) The mountains. 3) The blue skies. 4) Amazing science. 5) The snow. 6) Not the food. 7) My future.
4. Seven things I say most often
1) Anyway. 2) Hey. 3) Sorry. 4) Whoops. 5) Entschuldigung. 6) Links. 7) Rechts.
5. Seven books (or series) that I love
This question is really hard. 1) Lord of the Rings 2) The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett 3) Johnno by David Malouf 4) The Principles of Quantum Mechanics by Paul Dirac 5) Harry Potter 6) 1984 by George Orwell 7) Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
6. Seven movies that I watch over and over again (or would if I had the time)
Again, really hard. 1) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. 2) The Big Lebowski. 3) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 4) Lord of the Rings 5) Requiem for a Dream 6) The West Wing (I know it isn't a movie, but I watch it all the time...) 7) Battlestar Galactica (The new version, it's damn good.)
7. Seven people I want to join in, too.
I would add Mike, Scott, and Aram but the qpope beat me to it. 1) Mohan 2) Hinesy 3) Jen 4) Cat 5) TJ 6) Lisa 7) Jill.
Posted by mick at 2:58 pm
Monday, January 16, 2006
Should I switch from the Haloscan commenting system that I have on this blog now to the typical Blogger commenting system. I think I like the Blogger format a bit more, the problem is that if I switch all of the previous comments on this blog will disappear into the ether...
Posted by mick at 3:52 pm
Friday, January 13, 2006
It's Friday again. Tonight we have our first frisbee training for the year. My predictions:
- A big turnout.
- That I play like a fat lazy guy that ate too much over Christmas.
- Almost no-one notices that I play like a fat lazy guy that ate too much over Christmas.
- Because I am fat an lazy I'll spend a lot of time working on my inside-out hammer.
- That I have lost any speed or tactical improvements that I gained when I went back home in December.
- Beer will taste very good after the session.
Posted by mick at 2:10 pm
Thursday, January 12, 2006
For Christsakes! Does anyone out there know where I can get a decent coffee in Innsbruck?
After getting completely fed up with the coffee spurted out of our institute's "expresso-maker" (that's in inverted comma's 'cause whatever it spews out it ain't expresso), I decided to try a cappuccino at the restaurant downstairs. Wow, it was bad. I swear it was at least 80 C when it was served, it had an excessive amount of froth and yet was watery underneath it. It tasted like dishwater!
I haven't found a cafe in this city that DOESN'T USE LONG LIFE MILK IN THEIR COFFEE! I can't understand it, if dairy is meant to be one of this region's biggest industries why can't the use fresh milk in the coffee!!!
Posted by mick at 6:10 pm
I could jump on the bandwagon and attack the "Asia-Pacific partnership on clean development and climate change" - it seems to be the flavour of the day. However, I think I'm going to hold back a bit. I know, I know, kinda weird of me, but I actually don't entirely disagree with the approach that this partnership is taking.
For instance, Howard said today,
"The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that we address issues of climate change in a way that is consistent with economic growth and poverty reduction",
While I agree with the rhetoric, I'm a bit worried that's all there is to this partnership. The whole gist of the summit seams to be that we need to stick with fossil fuels for the time being and that uranium is a good stop-gap. If I were more cynical I would say that this summit might have doubled as a trade show for the Australian mining industry. But, whatever, I'm not feeling that cynical today. I don't think we have any good alternatives to fossil fuels and uranium at the moment and I think that fact is still dominating all of the discussion on these issues.
I guess the big news today has been that Howard pledged $100 million over the next five years to be spent on the development of technology to combat climate change. I have a big problem with that, it's a drop in the ocean. I'm completely with Jenny Macklin who pointed out that the government spent $55 million this year on advertising for their industrial relations policies. Money talks, and the money is telling us that Howard isn't genuine about finding technological solutions to global warming - it's gonna cost a helluva lot more that $20 million a year to fix this problem.
We need to work harder on our approach to climate change. Howard's pledge of $20 million a year is not enough. We need to spend more money so we can get some real outcomes. The task ahead is huge. The stakes a high. If the consequences of climate change are half as dramatic as they could be, we will need revolutions in science, engineering, and economics to overcome them. Revolutions don't come cheap. Unfortunately, they also don't tend to happen till you run out of bread.
Posted by mick at 4:56 pm
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Sorry everyone, I've kinda been absent from the blogosphere for a while. The main reason is that the real world has actually been consuming all of my time.
It's funny that I seem to differentiate between blogging and the real world isn't it? It's not as if blogging is something that happens outside of reality. Hmmm, that's definitely something to think about for a later post.
Anyway, for all of you who read this blog to find out about me and my adventures, I should probably write a bit about what I've been up to for the last month or so...
Well, about a month ago I touched down in Bris-Vegas. I was going home to do some work, graduate, and spend Christmas with my mum. Well, my graduation ceremony was on a ridiculously hot day, so of course I had to wear the full-on academic gowns and all that.
Here's a photo of me with my mum and some of my friends who could make it to the ceremony. From the left: Georges, Karen, me, my mum, and Mohan (they are all going to hate that I put this photo up, but I think they'll deal with it because I look a lot more stupid than any of them in those robes...):
It was great to catch up with some of my old friends over December. I've really missed some of them since I moved to Europe. It was really hard to move away from them the first time and was hard to fly away on Boxing Day not knowing when I'll see any of them again. Being a jet-setting sciencish-type definitely has its drawbacks when it comes to personal relationships. Again, a topic for another post.
Oh, and it was great to finally make it back to the beach:
Anyway, as I just mentioned, I flew back to Europe on Boxing Day. I spent New Years Eve in Leipzig. I had a lot of fun, the fireworks were totally insane. By "insane", I mean completely nuts, not necessarily cool. They had no organized fireworks in Leipzig, just a lot of drunk-off-their-ass people with a lot of their own fireworks letting the rip whenever they felt the need. I gather that a lot of people get injured on New Years eve. Well, it might have been dumb, but we ventured into the center of town to gather in an area where a lot of these drunken-pyros were doing their thing to check it out. Come midnight, it was pretty damned impressive:
So finally, I'm now back here working in Innsbruck. I'm freezing my ass off, the forecast minimum temperatures for the next week all look to be around -10 C. At least the sun is out and I did get to go snowboarding last weekend...